One look at the Gionee S6s and you would be right to dismiss the phone as just another candy bar Android phone with a fingerprint scanner. However, take a few minutes and you start to appreciate the device more. We wrote our initial impressions of the device a few weeks or so ago and even then felt that while the Gionee S6s may not be at the plateau of hype enjoyed by a OnePlus 3 or a Redmi Note 3, it is a personal winner for Gionee.
You will read in our full review, how a lot of things that Gionee did not do right in their lineups, that attention to minute details is finally beginning to show up with the S6s and therefore is a device that you should take seriously. We spent about a week with the phone, alternating between using it as our primary device to secondary phone, but generally hanging out with it at most times during the week and therefore feel we are at a point where we can write about the device with confidence. So without keeping you waiting for any longer, here is the full review of the Gionee S6s.
Availability, Box and Contents
Arvind Vohra, the CEO of Gionee India proudly announced that more than 80,000 units of the phone were already booked with their retail partners offline and that a very small portion of the inventory will be made exclusively available on Amazon, even though the phone is selling on several other e-com marketplaces. Like always, Gionee has been very strict about pricing parity online-offline, with the price of the phone in both the spaces being a very strict Rs 17,479. The phone is available in a couple of very interesting colour choices. You have Mocha Gold and Latte Gold, where the former is a grey variant while the latter is closer to the standard golden back with a white front panel.
Gionee has always taken immense pride in their packaging and the S6s is no different. The box is more like a goody box and comes with plenty of stuff inside. You get the phone, a 2A output charger, earphones with inline mic, MicroUSB to USB cable, a silicon case, bunch of screen guards, a SIM ejector tool and few documentations.
We found the phone to be available across the stores in the offline market easily. Thanks to the amount of media that Gionee has put behind the phone, a couple of mobile stores also called it the ‘Alia Bhatt wala phone’, clearly outlining the popularity of the device.
Construction and Build Quality
One thing you can never really point a finger at on Gionee phones is the build quality of the devices. More often than not, Gionee has got the build quality of their phones on the money and the case is no different for the S6s. It is in fact, one of the most premium feeling smartphones in the segment. The front of the phone is dominated by a 2.5D glass while back of the phone has is metallic. The top and bottom of the back are made out of plastic. It is fairly easy to distinguish between the metallic and plastic components due to the colour difference, but with a good overall construction, the sandwiched metal plate stays well in place without any movement.
The front of the phone is dominated by a 5.5 inch IPS panel with speakers on the top and three capacitive buttons at the bottom. There is the 8MP front-facing camera with a flash on either side of the speaker as well as the proximity and ambient light sensor. On the right flank, you have the power button below the volume rocker switch. On the left side, the device has a hybrid SIM tray which houses either a micro and nano SIM card or a micro SIM card and a MicroSD card.
At the bottom of the device, you have a MicroUSB port with a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microphone. Top of the device is blank while at the back, you have a 13MP AF camera with a LED flash, fingerprint scanner, Gionee logo and speaker grille. The camera lens is protruding out a wee bit but has a very clean orange coloured ring around it, adding that little bit of style factor to the phone. The perimeter of the device has a chrome ring running around the phone and since the edges are not very sharp and nicely rounded, the phone is comfortable in the hand.
However, since the curved edges towards the back of the phone are not worked upon, any slight ding or scratch on the phone is very visible. We tried this with hitting the edge ever so slightly on a table corner, and the phone did pick a rather prominent and ugly mark on the side. Other than this scruff, in our everyday usage of the phone, there were no real marks or signs of wear and tear, which was reassuring.
From an overall design viewpoint, the phone looks and feels very much like any candy bar device today. In fact, put it next to the likes of Redmi Note 3 or even some of the new devices by Oppo and you will be correct to think that they are all cousins from the same family, with the surname —China. There is nothing much Gionee has done from a design point of view that you would consider groundbreaking or breathtaking.
Just like Samsung, Gionee has been a real propagator of AMOLED panels, in fact, other than the good construction, the display has been one of the marquee features on Gionee devices. However, the S6s ditches the AMOLED panel for an IPS LCD display. This takes away some punchiness from the screen, trading it for realistic colours on the screen. The S6s features a pixel density of 401, so in terms of pure quality, the display is above average, but without packing the punch that perhaps a 2K AMOLED panel would.
The outdoor legibility of the screen is good, though even at its brightest we found the display’s reflection getting in our way towards a perfect experience. Viewing angles were fine and the device had no issues of colour shifting on our unit. There was no colour bleeding from the edges either and generally the phone’s display made for a good reading, browsing as well as multimedia experience.
Software and Performance
‘A solid build, a gorgeous display but bad software’. If you have followed Gionee over the course of their journey in India, this has been the recurring theme of several reviews written about their devices. Amigo remains a few steps behind the likes of TouchWiz, CyanogenMod or even MIUI as an outstanding offering over Vanilla Android, even though it has made huge strides in the years gone by and it shows on the Gionee S6s.
The UI is much more polished, though there are still some awkward translations that you find. There is no app drawer here still, though since the device is running Android Marshmallow out of the box, you get the goodness like Google Now on Tap and individual permissions for apps.
As mentioned, the device runs Amigo 3.2 on top of Android Marshmallow so you will have a tough time to find resemblance resonating if you have used an Android phone with Vanilla Android. For example, pull the notification bar down and you will be surprised to see there are no quick toggles there, and only notifications.
The system toggles are accessed by swiping from the bottom upwards. In this latest Amigo release, this Control Center has been cleaned and you have fewer toggles living here, giving a cleaner feel to the screen.
There are still an absolute tonne of pre-loaded apps that come on the Gionee S6s and only a few of these can be uninstalled. This is annoying and as there is no app drawer by default, these apps live on your home screen and stare in your face all day long. This is why, while using the phone, we moved away from the default launcher to the Google Now launcher and world was a nicer place.
There are a few cool ways of customising the apps on the home screen, but unless you really have a lot of time to check every single feature out, the possibility is that you will miss it and will never know it even existed.
There are some cool things too, such as the Charmeleon app that allows you to customise the wallpaper and theme of your phone based on the colour of your surrounding. Generally, we found that the phone was much snappier on Amigo 3.2 as compared to earlier Amigo versions and it is clear to see that Gionee is working on better optimisation and memory management too.
The default keyboard was fine to type, though we did want to come back to the Google keyboard simply because we are used to the same. The phone comes with Gionee’s own Messaging app, music player as well as a file explorer though you can always download more popular replacements like TrueMessenger, Google Play Music and Ex File Explorer too. There are also a few add-ons like Fake Caller, a lockscreen capable of changing wallpapers, a Theme Engine etc that are useful features to have on the device.
On the performance front, the Gionee S6s is an average performer. It packs MediaTek MT6753 chipset with 3GB RAM. Even though that is a very judicious amount of RAM, where the phone struggles is in raw power. You will notice it when you play 1080p videos that there are a few frame drops, even games like FIFA 2015 that we played, showed a few stutters, though none of these was evident in everyday usage. Loading a fairly heavy Google Sheets app to read an attachment took its own sweet time and this is where you really wish Gionee had gone with a more capable chipset. In everyday usage like jumping between apps, or placing calls or quickly responding to messages, the Gionee S6s performed decently well. There was never a moment where we thought our everyday usage on the device was hampered by the lack of horsepower on the device. There was no evident heating even while gaming, though while charging the phone did get pretty warm. The fingerprint scanner is fast and registering your finger is a breezy process.
The reception on the device was fairly consistent and SIM cards on both the slots behaved very well. The calls were loud and clear and data speeds were consistent. Since the phone supports VoLTE, we were able to use our Jio SIM cards with the device too and there was no problem on that front. Data speeds were consistent too, so as a pure smartphone, the Gionee S6s does very well. The battery life of the device was strictly average. The S6s comes with 3150 mAh nonremovable battery that on our usual usage lasted about 22 hours on a single charge with a screen on time of 3 hours-30 minutes. The phone took about two hours to charge from zero to full 100%. There is also an Extreme Mode in the control center that would allow you to increase the battery life.
Front and Rear Camera
Gionee is marketing the S6s as the ultimate selfie device, so only fair that we talk about the front camera first. No wonder that you will see that the device comes with a flash on the front and clicks some really good selfies. The Beauty Mode on the device is actually well done because unlike a lot of other phones, it is not too aggressive, which makes sure that the picture even after corrections, looks natural. The 8MP front facing camera comes with f/2.2 aperture and that meant that while everything was rosy in the land as long as the light was in abundance, the story kind of stammers in low light.
We observed that often the pictures in the dark came with a lot of noise as well as picked a lot of hazy-grainy textures. There is no stabilisation so the camera is not the most suitable for things like vlogging, though it should get you by a few Skype calls here and there. The rear camera, on the other hand, is a 13MP sensor and comes with 1080P video recording. Just like the front facing camera, the rear camera produces good results when conditions are favourable. While the shots from the rear camera in low light were better as compared to the shots taken using the front-facing camera, they were not something that will blow you away. For a phone where the USP is clicking pictures, the Gionee S6s is just a shade or two above average in performance. The launch speed generally was fine, and we did not miss out on any shot because of a stutter.
The app UI is fairly simple and straight forward. It does not give you the option to take matters in your own hand by using manual controls, which was a bit of a sad sight, though you do have enough options to take shots as per your need well. You can change the resolution and aspect ratio, of still shots on the device too. There are filters as well as in built modes in the camera too.
Videos from the phone were average, with the lack of OIS really hurting if you want to shoot while walking or from a moving object. The audio recorded was decent and very shareable if you like to shoot videos from the phone and publish them on social media.
The Gionee S6s is a beautiful device. It’s one of those devices that if the screen stayed shut, you would think it is a winner. However, diving deep, you see that the phone is underpowered and does not do justice to its USP. In this price range, you are looking at phones like the Lenovo Z2 Plus, with Snapdragon 820, so despite being a very decent pick, the Gionee S6s gets blown away by the sheer force of the competition.
Buy this phone if you love Gionee as a brand and want a truly steady and sturdy phone, however beyond that, even if you love clicking pictures and selfies, in just a shade under Rs 20,000 you have plenty of options to pick up from.